My first love was my knight in shining armor named Prince – but not the kind of Prince that wore a crown and rode a gallant steed. Rather, he was my gallant steed and was the pony that fueled my love of horses into a life-long passion.
Prince was a Morgan-cross and when I took my first lesson on him at the age of six he was about 18 years old. He was the ultimate school horse and was so patient with me. I took my first trot and canter steps on him, jumped my first jump, and even took him to my first show when I was eight. We rode in the cross-rail class, and thinking back, the confidence I had stepping into that ring was purely because when riding Prince I didn’t know what a bad ride was; I don’t think I knew that there was the slightest possibility of ever even falling off.
My trainer gave me a pep talk before my ride, telling me that I could trot the jumps and to take my time, etc. As they closed the gate behind us, I could hear my instructor yelling, “Just have fun!” Fun was all well and good, but I wanted to win. We picked up our four-beated canter, started our course, everything was going great, each jump was perfect. As we rounded the turn for home toward our last jump, I saw Prince’s ears perk up and his canter turned into a peppy three-beat. We approached the jump and Prince took a giant leap over the tiny crossed rails lying on the ground like he was jumping a two-foot vertical. My braids and bows bouncing behind me, I thought I was jumping an Olympic-caliber fence. The applause when we landed was something I will never forget, the crowd erupted for Prince and I as we cantered our final circle and exited the ring. Who knew the old man had the spunk in him to end the class with a bang! We ended up 2nd place (which I am sure was due to pure cuteness); and it is a day I will never forget (in fact, I still have the ribbon).
Prince and I had a bond that I have yet to experience with any other horse that has come into my life. So much so that when the riding school closed down six years later, the trainer offered him to my parents for me to own. In the end, we all decided it was best for him to go to a place where he could continue to teach children the love for horses that he taught me, and he was donated to Handi-Kids, where he lived out the rest of his days as a therapeutic riding horse. It was bittersweet because it was my dream to own Prince, but he was such a great horse, how could I keep him all to myself and not share him with kids that really needed him? Besides, I knew I would always be his favorite girl. Sometimes when I lean down to kiss my horse Palermo’s nose today after he’s had his treats, the sweet smell of chewed carrots takes me back to standing eye level with Prince’s fuzzy old pony nose on a cold day; his slobbery lips a mix of green and orange and his warm carrot breath blowing in my ear.